Thursday, September 27th, 2012

5 Lessons I Learned on How to Stop Overthinking

Written by: Bob Miglani


The overthinking chatter going on inside my head is one of the biggest problems I struggle with as I learn to deal with uncertainty of life and the unpredictability of a career.  Normally, it’s fine to have a pro/con debate about choices you want to make in life but so often I’ve found the overthinking to be associated with paralyzing negative thoughts.  ”No, you can’t do that!”, “that’s just not logical or reasonable” or “why take a chance?”, “stop dreaming and come down to reality”, are some of the things my mind says when it’s in hyper drive overthinking everything.

Overthinking makes you feel stuck

I needed to find a way to stop overthinking my life and career choices because all the over thinking didn’t do anything except make me more anxious and nervous about moving forward, causing me to get stuck on making important life choices.  But over time I learned how to stop overthinking…or at least give it rest so I can move forward.

Here are 5 lessons I have learned on how to stop overthinking life and move forward in these uncertain, unpredictable, complex and fast times full of chaos:

1. Redirect the chatter to something more useful 

Stop asking yourself if it will work, why things happen and if you should do something.  Just do it.  Go out and say yes to something new.  Embrace a project, whether it’s starting a blog, starting a business or starting a relationship.  Just begin and invest in it deeply.  The mind needs something to focus and if you can’t give it that focus, it will go off in all different directions overthinking everything.  So, give it something to focus on by working really hard on something you care about.  Overthinking slows down when you work hard and go deep at either your job, your relationship or simply doing a task because you are engaged in something that needs your complete attention.  From playing a sport to cleaning the house to engaging in your purpose, your cause or better yet, your work, intensely focused action is often the best way to redirect the hyper active mind to stop overthinking.

2. Know your rhythm and use it in your favor 

My overthinking often happens more at night than during the day.  If my mind starts a question, I’ll start overthinking on that question and take it from one thought to another, jumping around like crazy.  Next thing you know, it’s 1am.  So one of the things I started to do is to get up 20 minutes earlier each weekday morning and about 45 minutes earlier on the weekends.  What this does is to make me really tired as the night approaches.  This isn’t rocket science but it works for me.  I’m so beat at about 10pm that my wife jokes about having to give me an early bird special for dinner! The other benefit of getting up a bit earlier is that I’m so much more productive and creative really early in the morning.  Maybe its the coffee but over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten to know my own rhythm a little bit better and I use it in my favor to stop overthinking that can occur at night.

3. Set a time limit for surfing on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter

Like most of us these days, you want to check in to see what’s going on with Facebook, especially in the morning on the way to work or during the middle of the day.  It sort of breaks up the monotony of the day.  But I’ve often found that it feeds the overthinking and clutters the mind with thoughts that inhibit moving forward in life.  Thoughts like, “How can this guy afford to do all that traveling?”, “I didn’t know he was a Republican/Democrat”, “Why is she posting these comments?”…and so on.  It’s nice to see what people are up to but the mind can carry a quick view of the Facebook news feed and start turning it into useless gossip that makes you overthink about other people’s lives.  And what that tends to do sometimes is to limit your own personal growth because the reference you have of others’ success or failures is based on a simple post on Facebook.  By setting a time limit to spend on looking at updates for something like 10-15 minutes, I’ve found that the mind has less material to use, helping me to stop overthinking.

4. Take a “walk about”

I found that a lot of my overthinking happens because there is so much silence sitting in front of a laptop working away.   The mind has nothing else to do but wander, wonder and delight at creating scenarios of a future yet to take place.  By taking a ‘walk about’ around the block in the city during the day or going to the coffee shop or meeting someone for lunch, I found my mind being forced to focus on the present moment because you’re forced to react to things coming your way.  Making an appointment on my calendar once a day to do that ‘walk about’ of something different than the typical routine has also helped me to stop overthinking.

5. Accept that no matter how smart you are, you cannot predict the future

So much of my overthinking used to be about trying to plan out my future.  I would try to draw out lines for each potential path I wanted to take in my life and my career.  I would try to think about all the possible things that might happen on each choice and that would lead my mind off on a tangent to something else until I would get so frustrated that I just threw up my hands giving up and putting on the TV to vegetate.  It was crazy!  So, I am slowly learning to stop drawing out the lines because I’ve come to realize that I am not that smart that I can predict what’s going to happen next.  You just can’t plan anymore.  There are so many different variables that affect situations at work or home life that it is just impossible to see what’s coming next.  By accepting that overthinking a life decision or an issue is not helpful because I’m more likely to be wrong than right, I became more self aware and free to take action and move forward.

Accept. Don’t Overthink. Move Forward and Embrace the Chaos!

Embrace the Chaos! …a work and life blog by Bob Miglani, Author

 

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13 Responses to “5 Lessons I Learned on How to Stop Overthinking”

  1. Josue Says:

    I need help can’t stop thinking if you know what can help send me some words of wisdom nothing is helping me just want to be alone or stay in the house

  2. Bob Miglani Says:

    thanks for sharing. For me, I know I always feel better when I get out of the house and meet people. Talk, engage, listen, laugh. Forcing myself to get out of the house does wonders for my spirit sometimes.

  3. Jaimee' Mix Says:

    Bob,
    Thank You so much for this. I have a SERIOUS over thinking problem. I overcome daily with great effort. Knowing that many deal with this at least makes me feel as if I am not as crazy as I feel. I enjoy your writings. Many continued blessings <3

  4. Bob Miglani Says:

    Thank you for writing, Jaimee! You are not alone…be well…and focused on the here and now.
    Wishing you the best in life,
    Bob

  5. Shereen Says:

    Hi Bob.
    Thanks so much for this article. It couldn’t have come at a better time. My over thinking became unmanageable but I’m starting to get a handle on it. I was the Facebook junkie described in #3. Your article is VERY HELPFUL. Thank you again.

  6. Bob Miglani Says:

    Hi Shereen,

    Thank you for your nice comments. I’m so glad these thoughts are helpful. Hope you keep in touch and keep on moving forward…

    Best,
    Bob

  7. Padmini Says:

    Hi Bob,
    Thanks for your article. I am a serious overthinker and I get very scared if I will be able to get over it. It drives me crazy. I mostly think about whether I said the right thing to someone, is I hurt someone, if I did a mistake by saying something wrong, if I should not have said sometime and so on… I keep giving myself explanations and justifications and it goes on and on and on. I know that things are fine and I did not say or do anything wrong but my mind does not stop

  8. Bob Miglani Says:

    Hi Padmini,

    Thank you for writing. Here’s the good news: you are not alone. Most of us have self doubt about what we’ve said or do. Everyone feels it. Maybe the person you’re speaking with is self doubting their reactions too?

    And what I have learned is that it is a natural response of our mind to understand the outcome or result of our words and actions. It is this incessant need to have certainty if what we said is right or wrong. What I have realized is that by Accepting that no matter what actions you take, you cannot predict what someone will think or say because of the circumstance of their own mind.

    You cannot control other people and the way they will think of you or your words. But you do control you…your mind, your thoughts and your Actions. By focusing on your actions in a meaningful way, it might help in slowing down the over thinking of the mind.

    Also, here are 4 tips that might help: http://www.embracethechaos.com/2012/12/4-ways-to-kickstart-a-positive-day/

    Hope this helps and please do write back and let me know how you are doing. Warm regards,

    Bob

  9. Padmini Says:

    Thank you Bob for your prompt reply.I was looking to meet a counsellor this week as I was going nuts and then I found your website. I read the article in the url that u mentioned.I also watched a couple of videos in the site and i could very much relate in terms of “predicting”, “worrying” and so on.What I have started to do is to maintain a record of all the things that I had predicted would go wrong but actually turned out otherwise. When I find myself predicting and worrying that something might go wrong in the future because of the same pattern in the past, I open my record and go through the things which did not turn out the way I had expected it.I am trying to do all the things that I can to change.I desperately want to change. Can’t go on living like this. I want to be happy and peaceful and stop OVERTHINKING!!Thank you for this site Bob.

    Warm Regards,
    Padmini

  10. Bob Miglani Says:

    Padmini,

    You sound a little like me…with the journal on ‘predictions’. Sometimes the over analytical mind can cause a lot of the over thinking. Seeking counseling is a terrific idea. One other tip is to Find a Project….I don’t like to call it purpose because it sounds too grand. But something specific to do that requires all your attention. By forcing your mind to focus so hard, so much on the project in the here and now, it will help you to stop over thinking and start living. For me, I found that through the writing on my blog in some way. By sharing my own personal story, I get to help others with their own. That gives me so much more attention to the here and now.

    Have a purposeful day…today!
    Bob

  11. Padmini Says:

    Thank u Bob for all the help.I will work on it sincerely. I will think of a project also.I will
    try and keep with me some inspirational quote so that in case I have started to overthink useless stuff,
    I will refer this quote and start thinking about it so that I don’t get anxious atleast. Slowly I will
    do away with that as well. Keep me in your prayers. I will also pray for all of us suffering from this problem.

    Many Thanks and good wishes,
    Padmini

  12. Kamran Says:

    Bob,
    I am in a middle of taking up a new job and I was faced with all the question that you have mentioned. I searched in Google an found your page .
    Your article is very inspiring and makes me feel that I am not the only one faced with this situation.
    This kind of relieves me and I feel good.
    Thanks for this article it is very helpful.

    Many thanks
    Kamran

  13. Bob Miglani Says:

    Kamran,

    Thank you for writing. No – you are not alone. As I take my message out to lots of people when I speak, etc., you would be surprised to know that all of us overthink and worry about uncertain times that can be overwhelming. Stay true to yourself and your goals in life and keep on moving forward! Good luck in your new job.

    All the best,
    Bob

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